Open Access Journals in the 2015 Journal Citation Process

There are 11,398 journals listed in the 2016 edition (2015 data) of the Journal Citation Reports (JCR). Over 900 of these journals are listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals and identified in Web of Science and JCR as Open Access.

All journals listed in JCR were selected for coverage in Web of Science(Science Citation Index Expanded and/or Social Sciences Citation index) according to the criteria detailed in the Web of Science Journal Selection Process. Among the various aspects under examination during this process are the journals’ Publishing Standards, the focus of its Editorial Content, the international or regional focus of its target audience and the extent to which this is reflected appropriately in the community of contributing authors and Editorial Advisory Board members and, finally, Citation Analysis.

At no point in the evaluation does the Editorial Development team judge a journal’s business model as having any particular positive or negative value. Editorial Development is interested solely in the quality of the journal under review and its ability to communicate novel scholarly research effectively and efficiently.

Journals that have provided fully open and freely available access to their content have been present in the scholarly literature for decades. Journals from the Chinese Academy of Science, for example, have always been freely available, first in print, and, with the emergence of the internet, online. The cost of their publication and distribution is covered by the State. Brazil and other South American nations have also made their published research freely available.

With 8% of all journals listed in the 2015 JCR identified as Open Access (OA), we decided to examine these publications to determine if there were some easily observable distinguishing characteristics among them. For example, as a collection, do OA journals have measurably greater citation impact as a group as compared to the entire population of publications in the 2015 JCR? Are OA journals concentrated in a narrow band of disciplines or are they present in many areas of scholarly research? Do OA journals originate in a few countries or has the OA model been adopted globally?

To begin with, we saw immediately that the OA journals in JCR cover an extremely wide range of Journal Impact Factors (JIFs). Around 40% of our OA journals have JIFs less than 1. Among all journals in the JCR we see that around 38% have JIFs less than 1. At the other end of the JIF range we found that 0.11% of OA journals have JIFs greater than 20.

At the high end of the JIF range are ten journals that include three from Germany (EMBO Molecular Medicine; Living Reviews in Solar Physics; Living Reviews in Relativity). Living Reviews in Solar Physics and Living Reviews in Relativity, with 2015 JIFs of 19.333 and 32000 respectively are published by the Max Planck Institute.

The top ten also include two from the United States (Molecular Systems Biology; PLOS Medicine), and four from England (Genome Biology; Nature Communications; Lancet Global Health; Materials Today).

There is one journal among the top ten high JIF group from the People’s Republic of China, namely, Light-Science & ApplicationsLight is published by the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Changchun Institute of Optics Fine Mechanics and Physics in cooperation with Nature Publishing Group. The presence of this journal among the high JIF OA titles is a notable event. It has been 20 years since The People’s Republic of China fully embraced the criteria and principles described in the Web of Science Journal Selection Process. Over that period of time they have made remarkable progress transforming their entire scholarly publishing industry. Their approach to communicating Chinese scholarly research to and collaborating with the international community of researchers has been transformed over the last two decades. Joining forces with major international publishers such as Nature Publishing Group is a key element in this work. Clarivate Analytics is honored to have partnered with them in this effort.


Looking at the full range of 2015 JIFs among our OA journals as compared to the range and distribution of 2015 JIFs among all the publications in JCR we see overall similarity and fairly insignificant differences. The OA business model seems to have no discernible positive or negative effect on citation impact.1



The OA journals in the 2015 JCR originate from 57 different countries. There are 82 countries of publication origin among the entire list of journals in the 2015 JCR.

Nor are OA journals concentrated in a few categories. The list of 931 OA journals in the 2015 JCR encompasses 199 categories. There are 234 categories listed in the 2015 JCR across all areas of the natural and physical sciences and the social sciences.

OA publishing has introduced the possibility for wide distribution of scholarly results and also presented opportunities for unethical publishing practices. In the JCR journal listings are dependent on coverage in Web of Scienceflagship indexes (Science Citation Index Expanded and/or Social Sciences Citation Index). Coverage in Web of Science is regulated and governed by a well-known Journal Selection Process. This Process has as its guiding principle the selection of novel content that is well produced, effectively and efficiently communicated, and published according to the highest publishing standards free of any and all unethical practices.

The imposition of the Journal Selection Process has provided not only a clear, reliable approach to building content for Web of Science but also a set of guidelines for establishing and maintaining excellence in scholarly publishing in the world. The Process is universally accepted as the de facto standard in scholarly publishing. It applies with equal strength to OA and subscription-based journals seeking only to identify top-tier international and regional journals regardless of their business model. As a collection, the Open Access journals listed in Journal Citation Reports reflect the overall diversity and excellence of journals covered in Web of Science.

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